Today (3rd July 2015) the greatest film ever made, Back To The Future, is 30 years old. To celebrate, here’s The Hill’s guide to throwing a Back To The Future Theme Party.
In the summer of 2011, I threw a Back To The Future theme birthday party for The Housemate.
I researched ideas on the Internet, but there is surprisingly little advice out there, unless you’re a millionaire who can afford an actual replica of the time machine to pose in. Aren’t you lucky I’m here to make it simpler for you! Instead, I watched all three films, making notes on everything and came up with my own ideas.
So here is my guide to throwing a fairly simple and cheap but really fun BTTF party.
A flame coloured font on black (like the title of the movie) works pretty well, or you could cut the invitations into the shape of a Delorean.
I spent ages designing a very colourful invite in Powerpoint at college, but in the end I sent mine by email so lost the pretty colours and shapes. I had a lot of fun with the wording though:
is invited to The Housemate’s SURPRISE Back To The Future Birthday Party.
On Saturday 4th June 2011, 16:30 onwards.
Silence Earthling, My name is Darth Vader. I am an extra terrestrial from the planet Vulcan. If you don’t come back to the future with The Housemate, I’ll melt your brain.
That’s right, The Housemate is turning 26, and I (The Hill) am once again in control of arranging his birthday! So I thought, why not theme it on everyone’s favourite film trilogy? Please come and make it a truly great day for our dear friend. It’s your density.
The Housemate knows I’m throwing him a party, but he doesn’t know it is Back To The Future themed, so DON’T mention that to him.
For the more ambitious, please come dressed as someone or something from the films. For the lazier guest, anything on the theme of Wild West, 50s, 80s or futuristic (circa 2015) will be fine!
Please bring something to put in The Housemate’s very own ‘time capsule’ so he can look at it years from now and remember YOU.
Don’t forget your skateboards and guitars… Things are about to get heavy.
RSVP to The Hill’
There’s always internet card shops too. I had a pretty cool Back To The Future birthday card made up, and you could also do this for the invitations.
To really take advantage of the time travel theme, creating a gift that the recipient won’t even see for several years is really cool and will be a very memorable and thoughtful gift once opened.
I chose to have the time capsule opened in 2015, because this is the future (as seen in Part II) and tied in with The Housemate turning 30 at the same time as the film. Otherwise I’d recommend a a five-year gap being pretty perfect in terms of really special but not so far in the future you've forgotten who you used to be friends with. But you could even be as daring to keep it locked away for thirty years (the amount of time Marty travels).
I asked all The Housemate’s friends to add something to a time capsule he can open in ‘the future’. Trouble with ideas like this is it involves people remembering to do stuff.
‘If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
The idea here is to add different things from different friends into a time capsule so The Housemate can look at it years from now and remember YOU.
What you want to add can be anything at all.
A card or letter from you to be read by The Housemate in the future would be nice. You can write just about anything you want. Hopes and dreams, stories, challenges for him to do in the future, psychic predictions, recollections, comments on the current news, personal notes, future greetings, special memories, retrospective of the time you’ve know each other, whatever you like.
Then if you want, you can also add in an item (preferably no bigger than the palm of your hand), this could be a trinket(s), object(s), snapshot(s), newspaper clipping(s), drawing(s), keepsake(s), memorabilia, paraphernalia, anything, that is of historical note or that you think would be of use to The Housemate in the future, or would interest him, or is from something you have done together, or something he would find relevant or personal or something that reflects his personality or interests, seriously anything. It could be of literally no interest to anybody else other than you and he.
Be as lighthearted and funny or as serious and reflective as you like.’
So you get a box, stick a ‘Do Not Open Until [Date]’ label on the front and fill it with the above, as well as decorations etc left over from the party and then keep it safe and hidden for four-thirty years. I filled mine with cards and letters (and mementoes) from friends, the decorations, as well as the responses from the game of consequences we played and the quiz, and one very special genuine 2015 article to allow The Housemate to blend in with the natives in the future – a pair of ‘2015’ Back To The Future sunglasses given away by Pizza Hut that I got from eBay.
Solved what to get him for his 2015 birthday!
Since the theme was a surprise, I had to get a costume for The Housemate. I considered letting him be Marty McFly, but couldn’t get past the fact that I have ALWAYS wanted to be Marty McFly. I got round this because I know he really likes George and I thought if I gave him George’s suit for the dance then he would be the best dressed at his party.
Marty McFly outfit:
blue jeans, blue denim jacket, red/orange puffy vest/gilet, red T-shirt, short sleeved shirt with a loose check, braces, white nike trainers, purple pants (Calvin Klein). BE WARNED - FOUR layers are rather too much for a summer party - I was stripped down to braces level within minutes.
George McFly outfit:
black shoes, black trousers, cream dinner jacket, white shirt, black bow tie.
|A cowboy from 1885 and 1950s George. It makes no sense.|
My error here was writing ‘for the lazier guest, anything on the theme of Wild West, 50s, 80s or futuristic (circa 2015) will be fine’ on the invitation. So every other guest came as a cowboy.
Although one guest did consider coming as a Delorean.
Ideas I considered: decorating the rooms with clocks ala Doc’s lab; posters of the films and cut-outs of the characters; inflatables (guitars); bunting (some gets caught on the Delorean at the end of Part II); timeline of famous historical events; fire trails (created with fairy lights, candles, sparklers); the films playing on the TV (I didn’t do this because I used them as part of the quiz); blue and silver tinsel for the Enchantment Under The Sea dance and underwater themed decorations; 80s memorabilia for the Café 80s; make a mock up of the clock ala Hilll Valley Festival 1885 so people can have their photo next to it.
In the end, due to lack of funds and small space I decorated different walls of the room with images from the films, as the different eras of the films. These work particularly well as filler for the Time Capsule, particularly things like the Save The Clock Tower leaflet or You’re Fired fax. There was 1885, the 50s, the 80s, 2015, Biffhorric 80s and Doc’s lab as well as putting up my collection of BttF postcards and toy Deloreans.
You can buy BttF memorabilia online, but I just made my own banners and signs and printed pictures off the Internet. I would recommend checking out what memorabilia’s for sale online though if you want to give out special prizes or need extra bits for the time capsule. I got the 2015 sunglasses for the time capsule and I had a BttF notepad from Universal Studios as a prize.
Banner advertising the festival (‘HILL VALLEY FESTIVAL DANCE FOOD GAMES SATURDAY NIGHT SEPTEMBER 5TH PROCEEDS TO CONSTRUCT THE CLOCK TOWER’) and photo of Marty and Doc with clock.
Blue and silver fish and seahorse decorations and poster for the dance (‘Saturday Night Dance Enchantment Under The Sea Be There Or Be Square’),
Lyon Estates billboard (‘Live In The Home Of Tomorrow… Today!’), magazines, comics and newspapers (Tales From Space, Fantastic Story Magazine, Oh Là Là, Hill Valley Telegraph: ‘Local Farmer Claims ‘Space Zombie’ Wrecked His Barn’) and photo of Marty and siblings fading from existence.
Battle of the bands banner, Re-elect Mayor “Goldie” Wilson poster (‘honesty decency integrity’), Save The Clock Tower leaflet and book jacket for A Match Made In Space.
Cafe 80’s sign, Jaws 19 poster (‘This Time It’s Really Really Personal’), You’re Fired!!! fax and newspapers (USA Today: ‘Youth Jailed, Martin McFly Junior Arrested for Theft’ and USA Today: ‘Gang Jailed, Hoverboard Rampage Destroys Courthouse’).
Biffhorrific 80s area:
Sign for Biff Tannen’s Pleasure Paradise, Biffco Enterprises poster and Grays Sports Almanac.
Doc’s lab area:
The Delorean licence plate, flux capacitor sketch and photos of Doc’s heroes (Einstein, Franklin,
Newton and Edison).
There are four soundtrack CDs to the films so it’s easy to get Alan Silvestri’s score.
The soundtrack for the first film also has The Power of Love – Huey Lewis and the News, Back in Time – Huey Lewis and the News, Heaven Is One Step Away – Eric Clapton, Time Bomb Town – Lindsey Buckingham, The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry) – Etta James, Night Train – Marvin Berry and the Starlighters, Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) – Marvin Berry and the Starlighters and Johnny B. Goode – Marty McFly with the Starlighters.
The other songs featured in the films you can download are:
Mr. Sandman – Four Aces.
The Ballad of Davy Crockett – Fess Parker.
Pledging My Love – Johnny Ace.
Beat It – Michael Jackson.
I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar.
Papa Loves Mambo – Perry Como.
Doubleback – ZZ Top.
If you need more than that, then go with era music 80s/50s.
Depends what you like and what sort of meal you’re going for. I had a buffet of food that appears in the films. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of the food and drink devoured in the trilogy.
Doc has instant coffee and burnt toast for breakfast.
Plutonium looks like red ice lollies.
There’s a Burger King in
(also Dave works there). Hill Valley
In the McFly house you will find a glass jar of sweets, lite beer and a Welcome Home Uncle Joey cake.
George eats a bowl of peanut brittle.
Biff drinks beer.
Marty drinks cans of diet pepsi.
Marty asks for pepsi free and tab at Lou’s cafe, before being served with a coffee with no sugar.
Lou’s serves malts, sundaes, cones, floats, coffee, soda, sandwiches and pies.
Marty drinks a bottle of pepsi.
The Baines family eat meatloaf and mash for dinner.
George drinks a milk chocolate shake. The girls have strawberry and vanilla shakes.
At the dance there is punch (possibly spiked).
Strickland adds whisky to his mug.
Breakfast at the McFly’s is fresh strawberries and oranges.
Doc uses banana skins as fuel for Mr Fusion.
Cafe 80s serves ‘hot salsa, avocados, cilantro mixed with your choice of beans, chicken, beef or pork’ as well as ‘mesquite-grilled sushi, cajun style’ and to drink is pepsi perfect (though Marty fails to work out how to open it).
In the future, the McFlys eat Pizza Hut hydrated pizza for dinner (I used mini pizzas) and grapes.
The antique shop sells Perrier water.
The girl with the hoverboard drinks a slurpee in a mug with bendy straw.
The McFlys have rabbit (with bullets), corn on cob and bread for dinner and drink brown water.
The saloon serves whisky, sarsaparilla and black coffee but not ice water. Also ‘wake-up juice’.
Buford drinks Kentucky Red Eye.
Doc offers Marty an ice tea.
There are fruit pies (in Frisbee dishes) at the festival.
Doc’s breakfast is fried eggs, toast and bacon.
Activities And Games
There is a BttF console game (which is Part IV and completely canon as far as I am concerned), a BttF card game and a BttF board game. If you don’t already own these however and can’t afford the expense (like me at the time) there are plenty of themed activities to try instead.
Depending on what kind of party you’re having, you could have dancing (50s style) or poker (Biffhorrific), but I doubted The Housemate would appreciate this.
I wrote out the different activities and put them in a bowl for The Housemate to pick out. We had time for about just over half, I think.
Different Choices, Different Lives:
‘The smallest decision or the biggest act can change your life forever. When George McFly was hit by a car, Lorraine Baines fell in love with him. But when Marty pushed George out of the way of the car,
Lorraine didn’t look after George,
George never asked Lorraine
to the high school dance, they never kissed, they never married and they never
had their three children. Think back
over your life. If one event had gone a
different way, what could your life be like now?’
I thought this would be a neat way to break the ice. I was wrong. It was a total disaster. Most people just went for ‘if I hadn’t been asked this question I wouldn’t have to answer’.
‘Hapless George often ended up with a Kick Me sign on his back. Take out the frustration on a piñata instead.’
I made a white piñata and wrote Kick Me on it (lazy, I know – if you have the skill, maybe make one in the shape of the time machine instead!). I filled it with sweets that were available in the 80s and hung it in the garden. We hit it with a baseball bat (Griff’s weapon of choice). It actually worked brilliantly and everyone managed to knock some sweets out.
The Ultimate Back To The Future Quiz:
‘It wouldn’t be a theme party without testing your trivia knowledge. Pick your teams and let quiz master The Hill see if you’re a real fan.’
See here for my interactive quiz. I wrote about twice as many questions as I actually asked, as I didn’t know how many teams there would be. I asked the teams alternate questions, with the occasional challenge for both and a quick fire round at the end. In the end we had two teams, Marty’s Minions and Who’s Marty? Unsurprisingly, Marty’s Minions won.
Choice Of Destinies:
‘A bit like consequences, we all start with the same person at the same place, but let’s see where this day could lead…’
This went completely wrong, as instead of starting with the same person and following different paths, we started with different people and followed the same path… I have no idea how we screwed that up, but it was still fun.
‘Marty’s greatest talent must be for skateboarding. Since we’re likely to break something should we jump on a real one, try out your moves on the Wii Fit’s skateboard.’
I knew I had to have a skateboarding game, but decided I didn’t want to kill any of the guests, so real skateboarding might be a bit beyond us. Instead I bought a skateboard wii attachment from eBay. This went down really well, but I have yet to use the damn attachment since.
‘Marty’s a crack shot at video games from spending too much time at the 7-eleven and he’s handy with a colt peacemaker too. See if you can knock down Buford’s target with our foam gun.’
I put up pictures of Buford between the balustrades of the stairs to shoot down with a foam dart gun.
This could be improved if you also have a quick fire console game to get that ‘Wild Gunman’ feel.
Get To 88!:
‘Have a wild and wacky race on Mario Kart. Imagine you’re being chased by those pesky Libyans or Biff’s gang, and go as fast as you can—you can’t time travel without hitting 88mph.’
This would work with any racing game. This was just the only one we had at the time.
‘Marty likes to rock. Unfortunately his heavy metal riffing isn’t quite what the rock and roll virgins of the 50s appreciate. Have a go at playing (murdering) a classic in rock style on wii music.’
Better with something like Guitar Hero, but I don’t own that.
‘Write your name and the name of someone famous on bits of paper and put them in the bowl. Write two headlines from the future but leave the name blank. Pick out a name at random and see who’ll be doing what in the future.’
‘Marty inadvertently invents the frisbee when he throws a pie plate to knock Buford’s aim away from Doc. Enjoy the good weather and have a round of frisbee at the park.’
Make Your Own Time Machine:
‘It took Doc thirty years to build a working time machine. You have five minutes. Get into teams and transform your boxes into recognisable time machines (copy any you’re seen on TV, from the Delorean to HG Wells) before the time is up. Most convincing box wins!’
So there you have it. Themed costumes, decorations, gifts, food, music and games, as well as an excuse to watch bits from the films (for the quiz) and all of the films (for research). We had a lot of fun. I hope you do to.